Tackling Climate Change
by Kevin Matthews
Just about a year ago, Al Gore rocked the national AIA Convention in San Antonio with a climactic final keynote address, and received a prolonged standing ovation from thousands of architects who had lined up for hours to get in.
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Gore expressed the compelling case on global climate change, anchoring the powerful presentation with this silver spur to action for design professionals:
Never before in the history of our species has the opportunity and responsibility to decisively affect the continuation of life as we know it lain in the hands of a single profession, as it does today with architects.
The case for such drama is pretty simple. Around a third of the world's greenhouse gas emissions currently come from the production, operation, and occupancy of the world's buildings. While much of society affects the location, development, and use of buildings in one way or another, no other professional is as central to these processes as architecture.
Architecture is Pivotal
When we also consider the share of local and regional transportation, and the share of natural carbon storage disruption, that are determined as well by the location, production, and use of buildings, then we reach half or more of greenhouse gas emissions as related to buildings.
If that half of our greenhouse gas emissions are not quickly controlled and dramatically reduced, then whatever happens with the other half, humankind will fail in protecting the climate in which we have evolved. Conversely, if the building-related half of emissions are controlled and drastically reduced, then we will be well on our way to a successful response to the crisis we unwittingly initiated.
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Demonstrators for action on climate change, including Mayor Kitty Piercy, march from the University of Oregon student union to the Oregon Ducks football stadium in Eugene, Oregon, dubbed greenest city in the U.S. (2006) by National Geographic.
Photo: Kevin Matthews
Bill McKibben keynote speech at Tom McCall Legacy Dinner, March 2008.
Image: 1000 Friends of Oregon/ YouTube
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